Wetzel v. Westinghouse Electric Corp.
Pennsylvania Superior Court
258 Pa. Super. 500, 393 A.2d 470 (1978)
In 1975, Willy C.J. Wetzel (Willy) was insured by a life-insurance policy that provided benefits if Willy died through accidental means. The named beneficiary on the policy was Willy’s spouse, Mary Margaret Wetzel (Wetzel) (plaintiff). Willy was a martial-arts expert. Willy’s son, Roy, was also a martial-arts expert. Roy and Willy operated a martial-arts school together. In March 1975, Roy prepared Willy’s income tax return for Willy. When Willy came to Roy’s home and reviewed the tax return, Willy became enraged. Willy walked toward the front door muttering about losing all his possessions. Willy then grabbed a Hawaiian sword, yelled “kewah!” and started to unsheathe the sword. Roy wrestled the sword away from Willy until the sword bent, but Willy continued to fight Roy without the sword. The two men fought strenuously for about 25 minutes, and then Roy was able to wrap nunchaku sticks around Willy’s head to subdue Willy. Willy then died. The local prosecutor charged Roy with murder and voluntary manslaughter, and the criminal case went to trial. The jury acquitted Roy on both charges, and the criminal court entered judgment on the verdict. Wetzel submitted a claim for Willy’s life-insurance proceeds. The insurance company denied the claim on the ground that Willy’s death was not through accidental means. Wetzel sued the insurance company for benefits. The trial court entered summary judgment in favor of the insurance company. Wetzel appealed.
Rule of Law
Holding and Reasoning (Cercone, J.)
Dissent (Van Der Voort, J.)
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